Ageism: A 36 year old dean?

October 1, 2007

The Chronicle has a piece which boils down to “I’m a 36 yr old academic, I want to be a dean and the institutions all want someone “with more experience”, read, “older”“. The new job search strategy?

I’ve rewritten my CV yet again. This time I’ve eliminated all those pesky dates that might allow people to guess my age. I went back and forth for a long time on that one, and I’m still not entirely comfortable with my choice. Besides feeling slightly deceptive, I realize that the strategy could backfire and that search committees will probably assume that I am much older than I am.

Can’t wait to see how that turns out…

New Kid on the Hallway wants to know “Would you, personally, support the candidacy of a dean who was 36?

Dean Dad screams “ageism!“. Ok, that was snarky, what he really said was:

what if, just for the sake of argument, we looked at performance and talent, rather than age? What if, and I know this is reaching but bear with me, we accepted the possibility that you don’t need gray hair and an AARP card to know something about management? What if we stopped hiring the same faces over and over again, expecting different results?

What if, indeed.

3 Responses to “Ageism: A 36 year old dean?”

  1. JSinger Says:

    Would a sub-40 year-old-dean be particularly unusual? It’s not my impression that that’s so and the fact that she’s already been in a similar position years ago also seems to argue against that notion.

    Her prose definitely rubs me the wrong way, though…


  2. drugmonkey Says:

    A bit whiny? Could be her problemo….

    If you read over the comments on the two linked blogs I think it is clear that there is some confusion over what type of “dean” position we’re talking. Dean of Residential Life type is one thing. But the most interesting discussion comes from assuming we’re talking a position of some real power like Academic Dean, Dean of the Faculty or whatever it might be called.

    This sucked me in because of the obvious parallels to the situations of plain old assistant professor hires. A couple three of my peers who are in fact young or appear young have situations that smack of ageism of this type. It spans from the rather neutral “surprise” that someone so apparently young is running their own group to some more suspicious behavior.

    In the case of administration it is curious because there are two things going on. One, can the person actually perform the duties of the office in terms of the management, hard decisions, organization, etc. Two can the person lead the faculty. This one is tricky. You might say “well this is the Dean, you must respect the position”. But we all know how faculty think that they run things. So if the Dean cannot gain the respect (grudging or otherwise) of the faculty this can be a problem. A fascinating one because if the problem was lack of respect due to it being a woman, minority or gay person, well, we all know how that would go.

    36 years of age is not a protected class of course but perhaps it should be in academia.


  3. FWIW, I’ve never encountered a sub-40 dean, which helped spark my question, but I was thinking Academic Dean and the like rather than Dean of Residential Life.

    Interestingly, I’ve known far more people getting hired as assistant profs for their “young star” qualities and for having gone through grad school really quickly than the other way around – but that may well vary by field (I’m not in a field where anyone runs groups!).

    The thing about faculty not respecting a Dean because of age – yeah, that would be wrong, if that person had the qualifications expected of an Academic Dean, i.e., being a full prof. In my area it’s just really hard to reach full by the time you’re 36. So is the faculty not respecting the age, or are they not respecting the lack of rank? If someone has the appropriate rank and then the faculty won’t follow them – well, that’s the same as if they won’t follow a woman, gay person, etc. But if someone doesn’t have the appropriate rank, then I don’t think they can expect the faculty to follow them. My question was just how likely it was that someone would reach that rank by 36. Certainly they may well.


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